Why Does My Dog Keep Sniffing My Legs?

Dogs are known as “man’s best friend,” and for a good reason! They offer us companionship, loyalty, and love – not to mention they’re always happy to see us. But why do dogs keep sniffing our legs? What are they trying to tell us?

As it turns out, there are a few reasons your dog might be interested in sniffing your legs. Dogs have a powerful sense of smell and can use it in many ways – you might even call it their very own superpower.

why does my dog keep sniffing my legs
Why does my dog keep sniffing my legs?

So, why does my dog keep sniffing my legs? We’ll get to the bottom of it in this article. Read on to learn more and solve the issue once and for all.

Why Your Dog Sniffs Your Legs?

Dogs have an acute sense of smell, and there are a few reasons why they might be interested in sniffing your legs. Dogs use their sense of smell in many ways, including learning about their environment, tracking prey or other animals, and exploring new smells.

Sniffing someone’s legs can also be an enjoyable experience for dogs – much like getting a doggy massage for the senses! Finally, some dogs will sniff your legs to please you, especially if they’ve been rewarded for it in the past.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the different reasons they may be sniffing more than usual.

To Learn

For dogs, sniffing is one of the best ways to learn and gather new information. When they meet someone new, their first instinct is to sniff them – it helps them figure out who that person is, what they’ve been up to, and even what they might be feeling.

Even though your dog already knows you, it still learns new things about you by sniffing you, especially when you first come home. Since they’ve been without for some time, your dog wants to check in on you to ensure everything’s okay (and see if you’ve been around another dog!)

They may even sniff women more during certain time since dogs can pick up on when you’re ovulating!

Chihuahua rubbing legs
Chihuahua rubbing owner’s legs.

To Track

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, at least 100,000 times more accurate than ours, which they can use to track prey or other animals. Their superpowered nose is why dogs are often used in law enforcement or search and rescue missions – their noses can pick up on scents imperceptible to humans.

If your dog is smelling your legs more than usual, they may be trying to track something – whether another animal or just a particularly interesting smell. Or, your dog is trying to track where you went without them.

If you smell like the dog park, a veterinary office, or even a friend they know, they may be able to pick it up, so you can’t hide your whereabouts from Fido!

dog licking legs why
Some dogs lick legs as a sign of affection?

To Explore

Dogs love to explore the world around them, and their sense of smell is a big part of how they do it. If your dog is sniffing your legs more than usual, they may be picking up on new smells they want to investigate more, which could be anything from the laundry detergent you use to a new perfume or cologne you put on. 

They can keep track of smells they’re familiar with and unfamiliar with, and familiar smells can even evoke memories. If they catch a whiff of something unusual, your dog will likely spend more time investigating so they can add it to their sensory memory bank.

Something interesting to note is that dogs have neophilia, which means they’re interested in new or unusual odors. If there’s nothing unique about you when you come home, you might find that your dog gives just a few sniffs, compared to a long sniffing session if you come back from somewhere like an animal shelter, a lake, or a football game.

Jack Russell stays with owner
Jack Russell stays beside the owner.

To Enjoy

It could also be that your legs smell good! Dogs have a keen sense of smell and may be able to pick up on things we don’t realize. So, if you’ve been cooking a fragrant meal or using a new lotion with a strong scent, you may catch your dog’s attention because they smell delicious.

Just as we can’t get enough of our candles, the scent of freshly-baked cookies, or a great laundry detergent, dogs can find certain scents delectable.

sad dog with owner
A sad Dachshund sitting on a lap.

To Please

Finally, some dogs may sniff your legs to please their owners, which is especially common in service or working dogs, who have been trained to use their sense of smell to help their humans in various ways.

But even if you didn’t train your dog to be a service dog, they may still enjoy the attention they get from you when sniffing. If you use a high-pitched voice and praise them when you come home and they start sniffing you, they may begin to correlate that behavior with the reward.

While this can be a bit frustrating if it wasn’t your intention, it just means that you can use the same strategy to teach them not to sniff your legs!

Now, the next time you ask yourself, “Why does my dog keep sniffing my legs?” you’ll know it’s likely one of these reasons.

German Shepherd nudge owner
German Shepherd nudges his owner to show affection.

Dogs’ Powerful Sense of Smell

Have you ever wondered why your dog’s nose is wet? It’s because when they breathe in, air passes over a special organ in their nose called the Jacobson’s organ, which allows them to take in more smells, and also makes it easier for them to track a scent. They also have over 220 million olfactory receptors (read: smelling receptors) in their noses. Our 5 million olfactory sensors are nothing compared to dogs’ powerful noses!

It’s no wonder that dogs can detect one drop of liquid within not one but twenty Olympic-sized pools.

While we may think of sniffing as just taking a quick whiff, dogs do a lot of analysis when they’re smelling. They take short sniffs to get a general idea of an odor and then long sniffs to get more information about it. They can even tell the difference between identical twins by their scent!

Dogs’ noses also work differently than ours; while we smell and breathe simultaneously, through the same airways, dogs can separate the two functions thanks to a special fold of tissue just inside the nostrils.

As for exhaling, have you ever noticed the small slits on the sides of each of their nostrils? That’s where their exhaled breath goes. It makes our nose system seem simple in comparison!

All of this together makes for an impressive sensory organ. It’s no wonder does go to town sniffing when you come home, when they discover something new, or when they meet someone for the first time. It’s their strongest tool to learn about the world around them.

dog nose and whisker
Close-up shot of dog nose and whisker.

When Leg-Sniffing Becomes a Problem: How to Help?

Of course, there are times when smelling becomes a problem. If your dog is getting a little too sniffy for comfort, or if they’re preventing you from going about your daily business, it might be time to take action.

Your two best lines of defense will be avoiding the problematic behavior (in this case, sniffing legs) and rewarding an alternate desired behavior instead. Start with the behavior you want to avoid.

Avoid Problematic Behavior

There are a few things you can do to keep your dog from getting too sniffy:

Cover Your Legs

If your dog is fixated on your legs, try wearing pants or long skirts to discourage them from sniffing.

Use a Scent Deterrent

A scent deterrent can be anything with a strong, unpleasant smell, like citrus or vinegar. Apply it to your legs before leaving the house or whenever you notice your dog getting sniffy.

Keep Treats on Hand

If your dog starts to sniff your legs, have a treat ready to distract them and redirect their attention.

Walk Away

If all else fails, simply walk away from your dog until they calm down to help to avoid any potential conflict or escalation.

walk away
Owner walks away from her dog.

Encourage Alternative Behaviors

In addition to avoiding the problematic behavior, you’ll also want to encourage an alternate desired behavior, which can be anything you want your dog to do instead of sniffing your legs.

Some possible behaviors to reinforce could be sitting, lying down, or coming when called. Whatever you choose, make sure to be consistent and always reward your dog for exhibiting the desired behavior.

With some patience and positive reinforcement, you can help your dog learn to control their urge to sniff your legs. And who knows, maybe you’ll even enjoy their company a little more in the process!

black and brown dog looking up at owner
A tan and black dog looking up at its owner

Final Thoughts

If the question, “Why does my dog keep sniffing my legs?” keep popping up around your house, you should now be able to answer it!

Dogs have an incredibly powerful sense of smell, which is why they love to sniff legs. There are a few things you can do to discourage your dog from getting too sniffy, but the best line of defense is to avoid the problematic behavior in the first place. In addition to avoiding leg-sniffing, you should encourage an alternate desired behavior.

With some patience and positive reinforcement, you can help your dog learn to control their urge to sniff your legs, and everybody wins!